Many of the companies appearing to offer free credit reports sell their monitoring service for a fee. The companies make you sign up for the free report and give a credit card, and then automatically transfer you to a paid service after enrollment and a trial period. If you do not cancel the service within the trial period, your credit charge will be automatically charged each month. Make sure you stop the service.
If you are like many consumers and don’t know your credit score, there are several free places you can find it. The Discover Card is one of several credit card sources that offer free credit scores. Discover provides your FICO score, the one used by 90% of businesses that do lending. Most other credit cards like Capital One and Chase give you a Vantage Score, which is similar, but not identical. Same goes for online sites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame and Quizzle.
This story is long winded and all, but the point is, it doesn't matter how bad you have screwed up. It happens to the best of people (I'm an alright kind of guy). But the only way to fix it is to put your foot down, get dirty and fix it. It won’t always be as quick as this and will most likely take a year or more to get in a good place. Then years of maintenance. But if you need a quick hit to your score in a good way, read through your reports carefully (with a credit advisor if you need to. Many personal banks will do this with your for free if you have accounts there in good standing) If it looks like there's something off or something you can fix, call your broker, go over the report with them and STRONGLY insist on a rapid rescore. They will get all your info and see what they can do.
Every creditor has an official “Report Date.” This is when they send the information about your account with them to places like FICO and the three credit bureaus. More often than not, the report date (aka closing date) is before the payment due date on your account. This means that they will report a higher account balance for that month than what is necessary…and this may lead to a lower credit score!
Review Your Credit Report – You are entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three reporting agencies and requesting one has no impact on your credit score. Review the report closely. Dispute any errors that you find. This is the closest you can get to a quick credit fix. Notifying the credit reporting agency of wrong or outdated information will improve your score as soon as the false information is removed.
Even closing an account won’t make your late payments disappear. Your best bet here is to get yourself back on the right track — set up payment due date alerts with all your credit cards and loans and get organized. You can move credit card payment due dates around pretty easily on your bank or lender’s website. Be sure to check your payment due dates in relation to your paycheck schedule.
Credit reports can often contain errors, and disputed information in the report will reflect on your score. But the good thing now is that you can check your credit reports through the CIBIL website. If there is more than one mistake, you will have to dispute it with the concerned institution either yourself, or seek help from a credit repair company.
Going forward, pay your bills on time. This includes non-credit bills. Your missed utility payments and late rent payments can be reported to the credit bureaus. Because payment history is so important, establishing a reliable pattern is vital to rebuilding your credit. At the very least, you want to avoid reports that you are missing payments, or paying habitually late. Consider setting up automatic withdrawals in order to avoid missing payments in the future.
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You’re entitled to a free credit report if a company takes “adverse action” against you, like denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment. You have to ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice includes the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.
If you are using a great deal of your available credit, it can count against you. Create a plan to pay down your debt a little faster. Honestly evaluate your expenses, and cut back. Use the money you save to reduce your debt. Try to get your credit utilization down to 30% or less. If you can reduce your debt, the credit utilization portion of your score will improve, and help your credit overall.
Once you’ve filled out the form and requested reports from all three bureaus, you’ll fill out some security questions and be directed into your report, one agency at a time. If the security questions trip you up, the website will lock you out of your report, but it will offer a phone number that you can call to get your credit report via mail. If you get locked out, request the report via mail.
Of the major credit repair organizations, only Lexington Law has received an A rating from the Better Business Bureau. The Credit People and CreditRepair.com received high ratings from their consumers online, but are not rated by the Better Business Bureau. These companies don’t do anything you can’t do yourself, but they may be worth your money if you’ve got a lot of negative information to remove.
If your lenders are willing to work with credit repair agencies: The credit repair agencies that have been doing this for a while know the tricks of the trade, so they have the experience to negotiate with your lenders on your behalf. Does this always work? No. Some lenders don’t like working with credit repair services. Some lenders aren’t willing to negotiate. However, for the lenders who are willing to listen, this is a good way for credit repair services to raise your score.
If you’re going to be hiring one of these services, you probably want to know what you’ll be receiving for your money – right? Companies that claim to help fix your credit should be completely upfront with what they can and can't do for your situation. A good company can remove negative items from your credit report and help improve your FICO score, making it easier to obtain a home, vehicle, mortgage, or insurance.
Credit card debt tends to be more damaging to credit scores than a personal loan, which is considered installment debt. The credit utilization ratio (see previous section) does not take installment debt into account. This strategy would result in zero dollars of credit card debt on the borrower’s credit report, which could boost their score by 100 points or more, says Ulzheimer.
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The key point here, however, is that you can’t go into repair expecting to improve your score by a certain amount. Scores are highly specific to an individual, so changes vary based on your credit history, the number of other penalties you have and where your score was before the item was removed. This is why score improvement guarantees typically indicate a scam.
If you find an error on all three credit reports, you’ll have to dispute it separately with each credit bureau, as they’re run separately from one another. You’ll also have to file a separate dispute for each error you find. (Here’s more on dealing with multiple errors on credit reports.) You can dispute these errors on your own for free, or you could consider hiring a reputable credit repair company or credit counselor to help.
First, the credit repair company will pull all 3 credit bureaus and look for the specific error you inquire about. They should also give you a copy to examine for complete accuracy. Next, they will dispute any incorrect items and the credit bureau will have 30 days to respond. You'll need to provide any documentation and receipts to support removal of the information. They'll follow up with the credit bureau and lender for you to make sure everything happens in a timely manner.
This is easier said than done, but reducing the amount that you owe is going to be a far more satisfying achievement than improving your credit score. The first thing you need to do is stop using your credit cards. Use your credit report to make a list of all of your accounts and then go online or check recent statements to determine how much you owe on each account and what interest rate they are charging you. Come up with a payment plan that puts most of your available budget for debt payments towards the highest interest cards first, while maintaining minimum payments on your other accounts.